Recovering from sexual violence can be a long and isolating process for many survivors. While it is estimated that at least 1 in 6 Australian women and 1 in 25 men have experienced sexual assault, a culture of shame and victim-blaming often silences survivors from speaking out about their experiences. This can also make it incredibly difficult to find and connect with other survivors. After experiencing sexual assault and navigating an arduous court process, Caitlin, Lucy & Skye founded The Survivor Hub in late 2021 to provide other survivors with the support that they never had access to.
The Survivor Hub facilitates fortnightly MeetUps in Sydney and over Zoom. They also run monthly Melbourne MeetUps. Full Stop Australia have collaborated with the organisers to provide a trauma specialist counsellor to offer additional support during MeetUps. Caitlin explains that the Survivor Hub has strived to create an inclusive environment which welcomes survivors in all stages of their healing and justice journey. Participants are incredibly diverse and come from varying cultural and experiential backgrounds.
The Survivor Hub also operate an online Facebook group for survivors to connect and share their experiences, ask questions, and seek support from peers. The Facebook group is easily searchable by “The Survivor Hub” and can be joined by answering the membership questions. The founders also run a popular Instagram page which shares educational content, advocacy, and legal information about sexual assault in an accessible format. This helps to fill the gaps in knowledge such as how to access the victim recognition payments and free counselling sessions. This is critical information which Caitlin says she wishes she had access to years ago.
Skye has a litany of changes that she wants to see in how sexual violence is handled in Australia. She says “Our legal system isn’t conducive to Sexual Assault cases… safeguards need to be put in place to protect complainants. We need to train police officers, barristers, and judges on trauma-informed practice”. Caitlin, Skye and Lucy have big aspirations but are currently operating The Survivor Hub in the hours when they are not juggling full-time work and study commitments. As it stands, they are not paid for their time. The founders are currently in the process of applying for charity status so they can collect donations. Moving forward, Skye says, attracting more resourcing and funding will be a key priority. This will enable the group to expand to new locations and provide further support to survivors. The Survivor Hub have a vision of themselves as a resource that practitioners can refer survivors to for ongoing support.
Discussing the most rewarding aspects of running The Survivor Hub, Lucy explains “It’s such a powerful feeling to know that we can provide a place for people to connect. Some survivors have lived with their experience for years and have never been in a room with other survivors”. It is impossible to ignore the deep passion which each of the founders radiate when speaking about The Survivor Hub. It serves as an important reminder of the power of lived experience in driving policy and practice surrounding sexual violence.